The Swedish Psychologist, Torbjorg Vestberg, looked into the cognitive skills – specifically the executive function - of Spanish footballers, Xavi and Iniesta, to test their giftedness beyond athleticism. Executive Function, in the context of football, is a person’s ability to plan and carry out an action, having considered the consequences; what Vestberg found was that both players had outstanding executive function (working memory for example) compared to normal people.
Some players are naturally gifted at reading the game and that’s a valuable attribute to have because it's hard – but not impossible - to teach and it can make all the difference in a fast-paced, close game. It’s about considering all the variables in a split second, to outsmart the opponents.
As a child, the former England and Man U player, Teddy Sheringham, was told that he didn’t have enough pace to succeed in football at the highest level. “People had doubted me through my career, even saying I wasn’t quick enough for Millwall’s youth team”. But the striker, who scored 11 goals for England, goes on to say, “I’d been given something in life: football intelligence.”